John Friedman


John Friedman is a recognized sustainability expert who has helped leading global companies integrate their aspirations into sustainable and responsible business practices.He has helped define science-based targets, goals, and managed programs… Read more

What If We Put Our Energy Into Showing The Way Instead Of Pointing Fingers?

It is time to admit that the ‘Blame Game’ actually prevents us from implementing solutions

In business, politics and culture the idea of finding out whose ‘fault’ it is has taken precedence over figuring out how to solve problems. And that’s counter-productive because the side discussion takes over what could be a fulsome and useful exercise in finding solutions.
Like the song says ‘when you point your finger… you got three more fingers pointing back at you.’ This is apt because they’re wasting time and effort NOT addressing the issue or using their knowledge (and sometimes their power) to guide those that they’re dunning towards are more sustainable or superior solution.

It’s not about perception it is about reality
Pointing out others’ flaws is entertaining on reality television talent shows, but it has no place in business. Standing on the sidelines and mocking does not help things get better. That’s why companies that aspire and inspire are winning the war for talent — they’re getting people by appealing to their hearts and minds (as well as their wallets).

Replace ‘name and shame’ with ‘know and show’
Think about it — if a company discovers something counter to their values in their supply chain they have two choices. They can walk away in moral superiority or they can work with that supplier to point out the issue and develop a plan to address it (by a time certain) with the threat of walking away if action is not taken. The benefit to this approach is that it rewards those who act, and hopefully creates a wider market for more responsible businesses.

Back your rhetoric with actions
Some companies have a system where they are willing to work with suppliers to help them get up to their standards, based on them articulating a desire to do so. By offering a contract first, they provide the financial means to invest in things (like ISO certifications, renewable energy, etc.) based on an established business relationship that is contingent on the agreement that the standard will continue, rather than asking for businesses to invest the time, energy and money (that they may not have) hoping that it will lead to more opportunities.

Consider them a partner and work together to improve processes and procedures. If the values are really there, they should be (very) receptive.

*A caveat
Of course there is a caveat; if someone is engaging in conduct so fundamentally egregious that is rises to the level of criminality and/or violating fundamental human rights, then it may be time to walk away and make the case that you did so.


Managing Sustainability: First Steps to First Class provides a compelling case, real- world examples, and the tools to follow a proven strategy for aligning sustainability efforts with existing organizational priorities. This strategy has taken companies from initial conception to the top of the sustainability rankings. Using examples from leading companies, readers will understand how to build programs that drive results and enhance reputation…

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